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Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York

Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York

Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York (17 August 1473 – c. 1483), was the sixth child and second son of King Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville, born in Shrewsbury. Richard and his older brother, who briefly reigned as King Edward V of England, mysteriously disappeared shortly after their uncle Richard III became king in 1483.


Prince Richard was created Duke of York in May 1474 and made a Knight of the Garter the following year. From this time on, it became a tradition for the second son of the English sovereign to be Duke of York. He was created Earl of Nottingham on 12 June 1476. On 15 January 1478, in St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster, when he was 4 years old, he married the 5-year-old Anne de Mowbray, 8th Countess of Norfolk, who had inherited the vast Mowbray estates in 1476.

As York's father-in-law's dukedom had become extinct when Anne could not inherit it, he was created Duke of Norfolk and Earl Warenne on 7 February 1477. When Anne de Mowbray died in November 1481 her estates should have passed to William, Viscount Berkeley and to John, Lord Howard.

In January 1483, Parliament passed an act that gave the Mowbray estates to Richard, Duke of York and Norfolk, for his lifetime, and at his death to his heirs, if he had any. The rights of the two co-heirs at law were extinguished; Viscount Berkeley had financial difficulties and King Edward IV paid off and forgave those debts. Berkeley then renounced his claims to the Mowbray estate before parliament in 1483. Nothing was done for Lord Howard.

Heir presumptive

His father died on 9 April 1483. Thus his brother Edward, Prince of Wales, became King of England and was acclaimed as such, and Richard his heir presumptive. Fearing for her family's safety, the Queen Dowager arrived with her family to Westminster Abbey seeking sanctuary in April 1483. Her eldest son was taken by his regent, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to the Tower of London, allegedly to prepare for his coronation. In June 1483, the Duke of Gloucester requested that Richard join his brother, King Edward V in the Tower and Queen Elizabeth was forced to hand over the young boy.

A priest, now generally believed to have been Robert Stillington, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, testified that Edward IV had agreed to marry Lady Eleanor Talbot in 1461. Lady Eleanor was still alive when Edward married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464 and the Regency Council under the late King's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, concluded that this was a case of bigamy. This invalidated the second marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and the legitimacy of all children of their union. Titulus Regius declared both Edward and Richard as illegitimate and removed from the line of succession on 25 June 1483. The Duke of Gloucester, as the only surviving brother of Edward IV, became King Richard III.

Possible fate

The Duke of York was sent to the Tower of London, then a royal residence, by King Richard III in mid-1483, where he was held with his brother. They were sometimes seen in the garden of the Tower, but there are no known sightings of them after the summer of 1483. What happened to the two of them—the Princes in the Tower—after their disappearance remains unknown. Tudor History was quick to blame his uncle, Richard.

Thomas More wrote that the princes were smothered to death with their pillows, and his account forms the basis of William Shakespeare's play Richard III, in which Tyrrell suborns Forrest and Dighton to murder the princes on Richard's orders. Subsequent re-evaluations of Richard III have questioned his guilt, beginning with William Cornwallis early in the 17th century.

In the period before the boys' disappearance, Edward was regularly being visited by a doctor; historian David Baldwin extrapolates that contemporaries may have believed Edward had died either of an illness or as the result of attempts to cure him.

Bones reportedly belonging to two children were discovered in 1674 by workmen rebuilding a stairway in the Tower. On the orders of King Charles II, these were subsequently placed in Westminster Abbey, in an urn bearing the names of Edward and Richard.

The bones were re-examined in 1933 at which time it was discovered the skeletons were incomplete and had been interred with animal bones. It has never been proven that the bones belonged to the princes.

In 1789, workmen carrying out repairs in St George's Chapel, Windsor, rediscovered and accidentally broke into the vault of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Adjoining this was another vault, which was found to contain the coffins of two children. This tomb was inscribed with the names of two of Edward IV's children: George, Duke of Bedford, who had died at the age of two; and Mary of York who had died at the age of 14. Both had predeceased the King. However, the remains of these two children were later found elsewhere in the chapel, leaving the occupants of the children's coffins within the tomb unknown.

In 1486, Richard of Shrewsbury's eldest sister Elizabeth married Henry VII, thereby uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster.

Perkin Warbeck

In 1491, in Cork, Perkin Warbeck, a young man of Flemish origin was proclaimed by a variety of Yorkist supporters led by the Irish city's former Mayor John Atwater to be Richard. He claimed to have escaped from the Tower and spent the intervening years on the run. Over the next six years, Warbeck travelled across Europe, receiving recognition from a number of monarchs including Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and James IV of Scotland as "Richard IV" of England. This support included Margaret of York, the aunt of the real Richard. Following his capture after a failed invasion of England in 1497, Warbeck was held in the Tower of London. He confessed to being an impostor, and was later executed following an attempt to escape.


As son of the king, Richard was granted use of the arms of the kingdom, differentiated by a label argent, on the first point a canton gules.

See also

  • List of people who disappeared



  • Baldwin, David (2016). The Lost Prince: The Survival of Richard of York. History Press Limited. ISBN 978-0-7509-7856-9.
  • Bennett, Michael (21 March 2024). Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke. History Press. ISBN 978-1-80399-723-0.
  • Langley, Philippa (November 2023). The Princes in the Tower: Solving History's Greatest Cold Case. The History Press. ISBN 978-1-80399-541-0.
  • Amin, Nathen (15 April 2021). Henry VII and the Tudor Pretenders: Simnel, Warbeck, and Warwick. Amberley Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-1-4456-7509-1.
  • Lewis, Matthew (11 September 2017). The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7509-8528-4.
  • Ashdown-Hill, John (5 January 2015). The Dublin King: The True Story of Edward Earl of Warwick, Lambert Simnel and the 'Princes in the Tower'. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7509-6316-9.
  • Arthurson, Ian (4 October 2009). The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-9563-7.


  • Ashley, Mike (2002). British Kings & Queens. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-1104-3. page 218
  • Weir, Alison (1995). The Princes in the Tower. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-39178-0.
  • Ross, Charles (1974). Edward IV. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-02781-7. page 248

Text submitted to CC-BY-SA license. Source: Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York by Wikipedia (Historical)